Mar 202013
 

cards-against-humanityI wasn’t too sure that this should be reviewed here, as there’s little to recommend it as a role playing game, or even a game with role playing elements. What made me take a shot though, is just how much I’ve had playing it recently. I first came across the game when a Twitter debate broke out bout whether or not it should be considered a good gateway to more mature and in depth gaming. My own personal thoughts on it, based on a few previews of the cards, and how the game is played, was that it didn’t need to do that job, but it could do if pressed.

So, what is Cards Against Humanity? It’s a party game in a similar vein to Apples to Apples, but very much aimed at a mature audience, provided that audience has a puerile sense of humour, and is not easily offended. It works very simply – although there are optional rules to add a bit of extra fun for people who have played it a lot – by the placing down of a Black card with a Phrase or question, to which the other players have to select a White card from their hands that they think best fits. This all sounds very simple, and it is. You can explain the rules in the time it takes to deal everyone a hand of cards.

For this reason alone, it is a great game to drop in front of people who might not be savvy with the more complicated Euro-games or Ameri-trash kind of board games that I usually play with my gaming friends. It’s the kind of thing that can be dropped on people who are already out for a drink, or just chilling at a mates house, and fun should quickly ensue. Add to this the accessibility of getting hold of the game itself – available as a free download to print out at home – and it’s a sure fire hit. Of course, it’s not quite that easy…

With a name like ‘Cards Against Humanity’ you get the feeling this isn’t a family friendly kind of game, and you’d be spot on. The humour is very close the bone, and if anyone in the group is easily offended, then I would advise against playing it at all. Almost every combination of cards could be considered offensive to someone. the last time I played this game – after taking the time to print it on a good card stock and cutting it out one rainy afternoon – I was in a pub with a small group of friends, and we had to be more than a little careful about how loud we were when announcing the winner of each hand. It should give you a pretty good idea of the level of humour, by telling you that one answer that works with damned near everywhere question is ‘Black People’.

This sounds very racist, and by itself could be enough to put people off the game, but bear in mind that it is derogatory about everyone. It is so universal in its attitude towards mocking things, that once you get over it, you don’t really notice it. As the game progressed, I noticed we were less and less concerned with keeping our voices down, and were just laughing out loud like children.

In conclusion, as long as you can get passed the dark themes and humour, this is a great game. easily accessible, both in laying your hands on the game, as well as playing it. it comes with a very high recommendation from me, and if you’ve played it before, feel free to share you’re favourite combinations of cards in the comments section. To start you off…

“_______, High five Bro!”

Incest.

Mar 192013
 

As promised, I’m back at looking at Necropunk, a new Pathfinder setting currently raining money on Kickstarter. As mentioned in my first brief glimpse at the preview material, I’m not actually that bothered about the pathfinder rules set. I’ve had some fun playing D&D 3 and 3.5, so I understand the basics, but I’ve played them with people for whom any deviance from a D20 based traditional fantasy setting is just something that would not even be considered. They were tactical players mostly, and whenever combat broke out, the game slowed to a crawl, with those of us there for the role playing, pretty much being told what we should do in the fight to garner the greatest positive modifier for the whole group.

I’m sure that there’s a lot of people out there who have fun with that play style, but I am not one of them. So there were a few things that I needed to know before I fully jumped on the Necropunk bandwagon, first being how important combat was going to be. Luckily, they have no problem playing things the way I like them. Although they refer to this mainly in terms of full interplanetary war, it’s an attitude that I bring to almost all of my games when the fighting starts; the fear of mutually assured destruction.

Unless you are a god like being of immense power, the last thing you should want – unless mentally unhinged – is to get into a fight. There is no real way to be certain you’ll walk away from it, and odds are that even if you do, you’ll have the scars and lasting injuries as reminders to be more careful in the future. There’s not a game I’ve run (that wasn’t Feng Shui) that hasn’t had this attitude. And after the first fight, I enjoy watching my players come up with great reasons to avoid getting into scrapes. And if they cannot be avoided, they plan so well for any advantage they can get, that they will have a much higher chance of walking away from it intact.

If/when I get the chance the run a game of Necropunk  that’s what I’ll be looking for. All my players will have to know that it isn’t a normal game of Pathfinder, and that instead of rushing into fights to solve problems, they should be seeking a more indirect form of conflict resolution. So far so good then, and then we get to another thing that I’m looking forward to; equipment lists.

Not everyone’s cup of tea, to be sure, but for me, I like the feeling that you should be able to equip your character in a way that fits in with the world, rather than just generic items and weapons. Plus, the more choice available, the less likely you’re going to find players all going for the same load out of weapons and gear, and adding to the personalisation factor of the character creation process.Add this to the aesthetic that they are going for, and I think I’m in for a treat.

Anything with ‘punk’ on the end is my kind of game. I like the low-fi feel the word brings, even if the technology is of such an advanced level as to be almost indistinguishable from magic. So we have huge interstellar space craft, that are actually alive, and will look as such. the weapons and cyberware are all living tissue, and the thought of blades glistening with ichor as they flash through the air sounds great! The images that are available for the way the game will look are still thin on the ground, but the writers do a damned fine job indeed of painting a picture with words. Still, I can’t wait to take a look at what they have to offer.

I’ll be back later with a more in depth look at characters with the next part of the review, but of what you’ve read so far has piqued your interest, you should head over to their Kickstarter page and pony up a bit of dough to help them out.

Feb 272013
 

1845710As a lot of my audience will know, this blog is set to start actually making me some money soon. Well, to be clear, not the blog per se, just the fact that I have built up an audience that includes a few people willing to pay a little bit for some of my writing. That being said, I still lack the kind of money that will allow me to go in on kickstarters that look amazing. What I do have though, is the aforementioned audience, and a willingness to tell every last one of you how much I like a product when I come across something that’s this rad (yes, I’m taking that word back from the late eighties).

Today then it’s time to turn our attention to Modiphius. A company that dropped onto my radar with two very intriguing words; Achtung! Cthulhu. Although I’m not a big Second World War aficionado, my interest running to military conflicts considerably earlier than that, I am a huge fan of horror gaming. That means that not being a fan of everything Lovecraftian would be a bit if a sin. So I had to take a closer look at this Kickstarter, and the whole line up of products. Before we get into the review, I want you all to head on over and check out the kickstarter. It’s already funded, so you know you’re going to get something out of it, and the rate they’re nailing stretch goals means that for putting up a bit more cash, you’re going to get some pretty sweet loot out of it. Are you back? How cool is all that swag? And now, on to the review.

Three Kings is the first of the Zero Point adventures, and apart from needing a core rule book, you have everything required to play the adventure within its pages. I personally have the the Call of Cthulhu version, although it is available for other systems, notably Savage Worlds and Trail of Cthulhu. All of this is a very good idea, as it quickly became clear that for most people, the game will be a lot more action oriented than the slow, more cerebral investigations CoC players may be used to. The fact that it’s set during one of the largest – and most defining – conflicts of the twentieth century should give you an idea that more than a slight tussle in a library might break out. Having read the adventure cover to cover though, this never takes away from the unknowable dread that marks out Lovecraftian horror games from the rest of the crowd.

The layout and art style used for this adventure are beyond beautiful; with cryptic messages scrawled into the margins and beneath some truly splendid maps, the care attention to detail shines through with even the most cursory of reads. As you get under the skin of the adventure, this obvious love of the source material – both Mythos based and inspired by actual stories of WWII – shines through. Time is taken to talk about the real life heroes of the war, and the deprivations of its worst villains. All this while keeping the story firmly grounded in the horror I’d expect from a product with the word Cthulhu on the cover.

The adventure itself is a well written narrative chain of events, without ever making the players feel railroaded into following a plot thread that wouldn’t make sense to them. From the beginning, the writer – Sarah Newton – takes the time to set up three ways for the adventure to begin, meaning that the players control just how combat/investigation heavy the plot will start out as. Sure, it’s likely to involve a bit more combat than I’d expect in CoC game, but even the more cerebral parties should have no problem circumventing a lot of conflict if they choose to do so. At several points throughout, it is made clear that the players should be allowed to dictate pace and mood to a certain degree, with the Keeper being told to go along with any reasonably well thought out solution that the Investigators come up. This should be a lot more common in published adventures, as it does a great job of empowering the players.

Although the investigators are free to generate their own characters, there is a selection in the back of the book that are better suited to a more military themed game, and I would advise Keepers to utilize them, at lest if they are relatively inexperienced with running CoC games. The other handouts are superb too. The maps and dossier that are available are of very high quality, and would help bring this game of espionage to life.

6844859In conclusion, this is a cracking adventure, and really makes me itch to get a group together to play it. The following adventures in this series have already made their way to my wish list, and the addition of the keeper and Investigator guides would be ideal, as they then open up this wonderful world for groups to explore at their own pace, with stories created just for them. All in all, this is very highly recommended, and if you have the means, you should get on the Kickstarter while you have the chance.

Feb 262013
 

1845710This is a very basic review of a product brought to you by Modiphius. They’re kicking ass at Kickstarter right now, and with all the buzz, I thought I had better check them out and see what all the hoopla is about. All I have to go on so far are my first impressions of the Three Kings adventure supplement. I have the Call of Cthulhu version, although other versions are available. I promise I will furnish you all with a full and comprehensive review once I finish it, but due to a busy weekend and illness yesterday, I’m a day behind and don’t want to leave you all with nothing.

So here it is, based on a cursory flick through: man this book looks amazing! Everything about it makes me want to play this game, from the random scrawled notes popping up in unusual places, through the wonderful art, and onto some absolutely stunning maps. it seems like Modiphius will struggle to impress me any more than they already have done, and I’ll let you tomorrow if they manage it.

Until then, you really should go and check out the Kickstarter. Seriously, the buy in required for the basics is pretty damned low indeed, and with all the stretch goals getting nailed, putting a bit more up will get you some primo loot.

Feb 112013
 

RPGBlogCarnivalLogocopy1-227x300Another month, another RPG bog carnival. This time brought to us by the rather spiffy people over at Arcane Shield. It appears that February has brought out the old romantic in them, but like myself, they don’t want to spend the time doting on someone who presumably already knows that they are the love of their lives, and don’t require an extra dose of yearly proof around mid February. Instead they want us all to take the time to think about things that don’t get enough love. Those games that you just can’t stop thinking about, but seem to have passed by the majority of gamers. For me there really could be only one choice.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen is a gem of a game. In its first incarnation I remember it being barely more than a handful of pages, and was easily read and digested in a matter of minutes. But that isn’t why I love it so. My own version of the game is in fact a beautiful leather bound edition weighing in at a little over a hundred pages, and I still adore it. What makes the game stand out for me is two fold, and the first is its elegant simplicity, mixed with a rather wonderful layer of complexity just beneath the surface. Allow me to explain.

04-22-11-BaronMunchausen02

Click for the actual adventures of Baron Munchause.

This is primarily a story telling game with each player taking on the roll of an aristocratic explorer and adventurer. The game takes place in some mythical tavern or tent, where you have all come together to grab a moment of peace, and discuss your exploits with like minded fellows. The first player is decided by which adventurer has the highest social rank – I often choose a marquis so rarely get this honour - and then a gripping yarn is decided on. “Tell us Lord Du Ponte of the time you heroically banished Neptune from his throne beneath the waves to a small fishing lake just outside of Almondbury“. The aforementioned Du Ponte would then regale the table with this highly unbelievable tale, suffering constant interruptions from the audience as they inform him that what he is saying simply cannot have happened for a variety of unlikely reasons: “But good sir, the Duchess of Hertfordshire was at the time engaged to yours truly, and as such would be in no position to lure a horse to the Stone of Scone”, and wager money to the fact. At which point, the choice falls to Du Ponte to either accept the coin and the story continues with the embellishment now a part of it, or enter a bidding war claiming that what the other person said was untrue, and tossing a coin into the ring of your own.

The story continues until it reaches its conclusion, or until the rest of the room becomes bored and starts to throw bread rolls at the speaker. It is advised that bread rolls be procured before the game begins, as waiters can never be trusted to bring them in a hurry. Each person tells their own tall tale, and then a winner must be decided. All very simple you see, and a great way of bringing together people with the aim of not only role playing, but putting the emphasis on story telling in it’s entirety. You will notice that no dice were cast during the entire game, only money – or tokens – changing hands. For me this is a wonderful thing; as much as I like random mechanics, I don’t like it when they interfere with a good tale, and this game is all about the tale.. The complex bit comes next…

The winner of this little contest is judged by all present, and they do so by bidding what coins they have left on who wove the finest yarn. So, if you have successfully averted all claims to untruth in your story you will have received no extra coins. And if you have made certain that everyone knows how much exaggeration went into the other wild stories, you will also have no coins of your own left. This means that they will be in the hands of others, who will have to place them before someone other than themselves, thus giving you a greater chance of emerging victorious. A fine mechanic, and one that inspires more florid story telling. Telling a good story with passion and inventiveness in equal measure, also important in gaining points from your compatriots.

So, as you can see, a great game to inspire your more creative side. As to the second reason why I love his game; well that is going to be the subject of a separate article, but the short story is that it’s a great game to play with people who would never willingly join in a role playing game, for whatever reason that may be…

Feb 082013
 
Click for Kuro page

Click for Kuro page

Welcome back everyone to this, the final part of my review of Kuro, published by Cubicle 7. If you’re feeling a little left behind, all of the previous reviews can be found by clicking the following links. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. This will be a slightly shorter review than the others, mainly because a lot of the things that excited me about the last part of the book are chock full of spoilerific goodness, and I don’t want to ruin the surprise for anyone who clicks the word Kuro above and buys their very own copy of this awesome game. So, broad strokes for this one then…

First off we get some great pieces of inspiration in the form of several secret societies and clans that one could encounter while playing Kuro. The descriptions given are short and to the point, leaving a lot up the GM about how to write them into a campaign and even how to present them. What’s never missing though is a seed of inspiration. Without fail I could think of a use for every group in this section, and there were a couple that I think could be seeds for an entire campaign without too much effort. This is exactly the kind of thing I want, and one of the reasons why I don’t tend to buy full expansions for games these days; give me some basics, then I want the game’s designers to trust me to do something with their product, and not prescribe to me exactly what I should be doing with it..

Following on from this we get some choice nasties to play around with. These run the gamut of ghostly apparitions, creatures from Japanese mythology, and even a Lovecraftian feeling horror or two. All very well done, with stats beneath the descriptions; and these cover motivations, personalities and the physical look of the creatures too. Again, we have plenty to work with here, but I found myself thinking of them more as bad guys to be inserted, rather than plot hooks. Might just be me though…

We also get some Kuro themed GMing tips. This seems like quite standard fayre, but with some nice touches. Kuro probably won’t play like most other games, due to the characters you will be playing and their individual motivations. Time is well spent here going over this section in detail to give yourself an idea of everything that is possible, and how to avoid falling into some clichés of the genre. We also have a whole bunch of examples of the genre, and again, this is worth paying attention to, as everything could be used for more plot hooks and ideas.

We end with a introductory adventure, and I don’t want to spoil anything other than to say that it looks like a very strong way indeed to get a disparate bunch of people into the thick of the action without too much exposition as to the whys and wherefores. Based on my own experience of character creation – done before reading the adventure – there would be little to no challenge getting him involved in this plot, and I think the same could be said for any character that could be created.

All in all then, a rather nifty end to the book. Setting the GM up very well indeed for whatever concepts get thrown at him, and making sure that they should have no problem maintaining the right amount of fear and suspense.

Feb 042013
 
kuro-cover-500-233x300

Click for Kuro website

For those just joining us, you might want to jump back a few pages, and take a look at the previous parts of this review, looking at the setting information, and character creation. Now, if you’re all caught up, we’ll take a look at how the system works.

Carrying on from character creation, you will remember that each character has a list of eight traits, spit into mental and physical, and a whole bunch of skills and specialisations. All these numbers are used to work out the likelihood of passing or failing to perform anything other than simple actions. To give you an example, I’m going back to my still unnamed spoilt brat gambler kid I made earlier. Although his primary focus is his gambling hobby, I picked out a couple of extra skills that would be useful for him. Within the ‘Deception’ skill group, gambling was an easy choice to turn into a specialty, but right there next to it was sleight of hand. Had to be done really didn’t it? In a situation where the character needed to palm a card and replace it to give himself even a chance of staying at the table, he would need to make a skill roll. Difficulty would be set by the GM and then the dice wold be rolled.

As this is a test of manual dexterity, the base statistic is easy to determine, but the game encourages creativity in this regard, with no solid tie-in between skill and trait, instead allowing the players and GM the chance to play to their strengths, wherever able. In this case it’s fairly straightforward, but there could be an argument made to use Charisma instead to distract the other gamblers, but that might be a stretch. So, we take the trait number, and grab that many six sided dice; in my case a paltry two. We then take a look at the score I have in the skill. Deception comes in at three points, which would be correct for any specialisation that falls under it, unless you’ve whacked a few specialisation points in it as well. I did that very thing and raised my sleight of hand to lofty height of four. This means I have no ‘Gimikku’ (gained if a specialisation hits five points) to give me any extra bonuses to this roll, so lets just take a shot at it. I roll both d6, and add the skill rank to the total.

Here’s where it gets interesting though, and reminds why I love games where the system becomes more than just a means of randomising success, and instead adds to the feel of the setting. Not only does it throw in my favourite mechanic - that of the ‘exploding dice’ – but it adds its own touch. In Japanese, the number four is ‘Shi’, which also means, quite literally, death. This means that any roll of a four on a d6 is not included in the final score. Might seem harsh, but what with exploding dice, I think it should balance out with no real problems. It also gave me an idea for a particularly sinister house rule.

Imagine a skill check that is almost too important to fail, but fail it does. All because of the player staring down at the dreaded number four on his freshly rolled dice. If the four was included, they would have just scraped by. If only there was something to be done. As the GM, you offer to put that malevolent die back into contention, on the understanding that Death will notice, and seek recompense. Maybe not straight away, and maybe not to anyone immediately connected to the PC, but Shi will take its due…

You must also take into account the degree of any success or failure based on how far away the result was from the target number, but this is simple maths and should not impede game play at any time. All this sounds great so far, but as mentioned in the last review, there are five different ‘Gimikku’ and I think that until the players get a few games under their collective belts, this could slow things down without a cheat sheet for each player. A minor quibble at most though, as I think the system stands up very well, both in how it allows players a certain freedom to play to their strengths, and how well it helps with immersing the players into a highly superstitious game world.

Combat works much the same as regular skill checks, although a lot more of them will be opposed checks, which work exactly as you would imagine them to. One addition I do like though is the simplicity of the combat maneuvers that are available. In either close combat or at range, you can choose to sacrifice accuracy for damage or vice versa. Both are simple to work out, and mean that players can once again adapt to suit the strengths and weaknesses of their characters. Add to this a bunch of situational modifiers that should be fairly standard to most people who’ve played an RPG with a tactical combat system, and you’re done.

So far, I have to say that I’m loving what I’ve been reading. the system seems to flow quickly while being easily adaptable to the fluid situations one would expect to encounter, and even a few one might not. Number of dice plus modifier might seem a less than simple way to calculate a chance of success, but having played original Deadlands for several years, I can attest to how quickly it becomes second nature. There’s just one bit left of this review, and if I get the chance I will treat you all to the GM’s section by the end of the week.

Feb 012013
 

myfarog-adventure1-front-page1I announced that I had applied to join this play test on the Facebook page for the blog a few days back, after getting the tip off from wonderful blogger – and fellow extreme metal fan – Cirsova. I jumped at the chance, but with a hint of nervous apprehension. You see, the game has been created by someone who is considered controversial, even in Black Metal circles: Varg Vikernes. I really don’t feel like listing here the reasons for this, as I spent a lot of time doing so for my one of my final year projects at university, but if you feel the need, it is easy to search for the information on Google (other search engines are available).

Suffice to say, ‘controversial’ doesn’t quite do it justice. Why then am I writing about this man, and doing so in a way that is going to be supportive? Do I agree with his politics and religious views? Absolutely not. What I can do though is differentiate between the man and the art. For instance, I adore his latest re-issues of the old Burzum material, as well as his later stuff. I also know that he is heavily inspired by the work of Tolkien, taking on a stage name of Count Grishnackh for a time, and even the band name ‘Burzum’, means ‘darkness’ in Black Speech. His personal background also included paying war-games and RPGs, something that I’m sure those people who oppose our hobby would be more than happy to tout as a reason to stop impressionable youths from doing so.

So, with all these things considered, I thought I had nothing to lose from just registering my interest. And Last night my mobile beeped notifying me of a new email, and lo and behold, it was the play test packet arriving in my inbox. It was a bit late for me to get into it by then, but I was very excited indeed and jumped online this morning to take a look. This post is not going to detail what I have found out so far, other than to say that it all looks good, and professionally put together. I had to a nondisclosure thing when I signed up, so there actually be big bits of the game that I won’t get the chance to go into detail on, we shall see… I’ve also been going back through the game’s website to download a couple of extra things to get myself prepared.

Now, as followers of the blog will know, I’m in the middle of reviewing Kuro, and will be finishing that review before I get too deep into MYFAROG, so have no fears there. But expect occasional updates about how I’m finding it on any of the social media channels I use, such as the aforementioned Facebook page, my Twitter account, or even on Google+. Let me know what you, my dedicated readers think about this, and I’ll do my best to answer any questions you may have.

Dec 282012
 

For the record, I don’t want people to expect too many more book reviews on this site, unless they are actual role playing books of some kind. This is a noteworthy exception though, as within half a dozen pages, I was thinking about how best to turn this bad boy into an RPG. I know that I’m not alone in this, as I lent it to my better half, and after reading the first few chapters, she was contemplating the exact same thing, and even had a base system in mind.

What makes this dystopic, cyberpunk book so suitable as a role playing game then? The setting. Oh lord, the setting. From the off, Mr. Cline paints a vivid portrait of two distinct worlds, both of which are full of rich pickings indeed for game play possibilities. To put this context, the book takes place in a near future where the poverty divide is wider than ever, and global warming paired with energy shortages and wars have made the world a hell of a place to live unless you’re one of the elite. The alternative is the OASIS. A fully immersive VR social media/MMO world, open for anyone with the hardware required to log on.

Even this plane, with it’s countless worlds and settings, is divided, as only the entrance way is available for free. Leveling up your avatar costs money to get them to worlds that provide quests, and for Wade – the hero of the piece, that just isn’t possible. His only options involve hitching a ride with school friends and grinding low level kills for their paltry XP and treasure. That is until he solves the first clue in a game that runs throughout the story. Without going too far into a plot that is much better discovered by reading the book, the creator of Oasis was dead to begin with. And his will involved giving away everything - including the rights to Oasis – to the first person to find the Easter egg he had hidden in the virtual universe he had created.

The first clue? Well, that was just perfect for role players.

The copper key awaits explorers

In a tomb filled with horrors

But you have much to learn

If you hope to earn

A place among the high scorers.

Anyone else getting an idea that they might have a rough idea on this one? This is part of the beauty of the book, it is so totally self aware, not only about it’s content, but also its audience. It could have been heavy handed with this, and become a series of knowing nods that becomes tired so very quickly, but it never does. Cline is obviously in love with the pop culture of his own youth, just as much as the man behind the riddles. Luckily, I’m willing to bet that a whole heap of my readers are too. Any of you ever annoyed the snot out of someone when a movie from your childhood has come on, by quoting the whole thing verbatim? I know I have, and still do.

This simple activity becomes instrumental in the book, and just made me smile to think how well I would do if the movie in question was Ferris Bueller’s day Off…

This is not a real book review, and I’m not going to go into loads of detail about why the author chose the world he did to tell his story or any of the stuff that real reviewers get up to. Instead I’m going to implore you all to try and pick up a copy of this book. It is worth the cost at full price from a real book shop – and since I work in one, I hope you will all pick it from your own local book emporium – but with money being tight, I present to you a link to grab a slightly cheaper copy. 

I hope you all enjoy it, and I look forward to hearing from you what inspiration you have taken from this wonderful book, and how you plan on using it in your own role playing games.

Dec 212012
 

I have had my eye on this little beauty for a while, and when a couple of twitter people I follow started talking about it, I just had to ask if there was a way to get my hands on a review copy of it. Quite selfishly, I also wanted it to run the game at some point. I get a huge kick out of running horror RPGs, and my regular readers will know that I’m currently GMing a CP2020 game for my local gaming society. Seriously, they couldn’t have designed a game to grab my attention better, without rubbing some Steampunk all over it…

Luckily, one of the Tweeps that was talking was the lovely Cubicle 7 twitter account (@cubicle7), who kindly winged me the download code for my very own pdf of said game. Big thanks go out to them for sending me this; as they said themselves, they’re reticent to give out too many review copies as they don’t get that many reviews done. Well, I’m not quite done reading it yet, but what I’ve read so far has been not only killer, but well worth talking about, so with no further ado, lets get into Kuro

What I have read so far is the setting info, which I’m breaking into three parts, and takes up over sixty pages of the book. Some of you might be thinking that this is a bit much, but I love spending a good old chunk of reading time on setting the scene, rather than jumping in too early and then having the setting information drip fed to me in the middle of pages that really should concern themselves more with the system.

The first part is a captivating bit of prose fiction to set the scene in a ‘Show it, don’t tell it’ kind of way. You’re introduced to what is clearly a player character and their sidekick, as they travel through the cyberpunk streets of Tokyo, or Shin-Edo, to give its current name. These are wonderfully described, along with snippets of back story dropped into get the reader thinking about the setting and stories that could be told within it, right from the get go. I always like seeing these intro chapters as I think they do away with the need for a ‘what is role playing’ section. Sadly the game designers didn’t agree with me, and popped one up there anyway. That, along with a glossary of terms that really should be in the back of the book, were the only things I was a bit let down by.

After that we get some description of the actual back story; a very well thought out idea that opens the door to not only cyberpunk genre’d storytelling, but a whole host of horror ideas too. You can play around with cyberpunk styled body-horror, serial killing splatterpunk, supernatural ghost stories, and even Lovecraftian otherworldly eldritch horrors. In other words, perfect for me, and any other fans of horror RPGs. You get tastes of the advances in technology and how it affects the lives of the people condemned to stay in Shin-Edo. All this is good, but on occasion goes over a little bit of ground from the prose piece; not a bad thing though, as I know from other gamers that not everyone likes, or  even bothers to read, the fiction at the top of a book.

Finally we have a lot more detail on the city itself. It is broken down into ‘quarters’, but ‘wards’ seem a better choice of word, as there are considerably more than four of them. Each has its own feel, along with personalities and places of note. It is worth pointing out here a great trick they pull throughout this whole first quarter of the book. Often in RPG rule books, box out text plays a part in the setting info. More often than not it breaks up the narrative flow as it is dropped in seemingly at random. Not so with Kuro. Time has obviously been taken to fit it into the world they are weaving, with thought being given to such fine touches as the frame on the text box making sense for what is inside it. They are all worth reading, as they drop hints and clues about what could be encountered within the city, and even give GMs some great plot seeds. If I’m honest, I’ve already stolen one of them for my own cyberpunk game…

So, what do I think so far? I ruddy love it! I know that I’m pretty much the perfect GM to be reviewing this type of RPG as it ticks so many boxes in what I look for in a setting, but it could still have been handled badly. The pdf is gorgeous though, with stunning art, and some great layouts, along with writing that pops. Sure, there is a typo or grammatical error here and there, but translated work can be forgiven as long as it doesn’t become a constant issue. I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into character creation, and then the system as whole, but - faithful readers – that will have to wait until the new year.